Ben Matulino becomes just the fourth player to make 200 appearances for the Vodafone Warriors when they face St George Illawarra in their 11th-round NRL clash at FMG Stadium Waikato on Friday night (8.00pm kick-off).
The club’s first-ever home game in Hamilton will also be a milestone occasion for second rower Bodene Thompson who plays his 50th match for the Vodafone Warriors, his 135th career game.
Matulino (28) follows Stacey Jones (2005) and current team-mates Simon Mannering (2014) and Manu Vatuvei (2015) in joining the club’s elite 200-game club.
A foundation NYC player in 2008, Matulino was the first graduate from the under-20 competition to play both 100 and 150 NRL games but injuries and suspension have held him up with Brisbane’s Andrew McCullough and Alex Glenn edging him to the 200 mark.
Matulino has again been named on the bench as he prepares to add a significant achievement to a career which has so far seen him play a total of almost 9100 minutes, make more than 20,000 metres from almost 2300 runs (averaging 100.9 metres a game) and more than 4110 tackles (averaging 20.7 a game).
While Matulino lines up he won’t have his long-standing team-mates Mannering and Vatuvei alongside him. Mannering hasn’t recovered from the hamstring injury which forced him out of last Saturday’s 28-36 loss to Penrith while Vatuvei is sidelined with a calf injury he picked up in the final field session last Friday when he was all set to make his return to the NRL.
Also out of contention this week is Solomone Kata. He was making his comeback from a hamstring complaint last week when he was forced from the field with another leg injury in the 69th minute.
With Kata out, David Fusitu’a switches from the wing to the centres, Ken Maumalo is back replacing Fusitu’a after playing in the Intrust Super Premiership last Saturday and Bunty Afoa, who started on the bench against Penrith, has been named to start at loose forward.
Brought onto the extended bench this week are props Charlie Gubb and Albert Vete as well as utility Tuimoala Lolohea
In their last home game against the Dragons, the Vodafone Warriors prevailed 26-10 at Mount Smart Stadium on May 1 last year to end a run of 11 consecutive losses to St George Illawarra dating back to 2008. When the two sides met in Sydney on March 26 this year, the Dragons won 26-12 on a day when Kieran Foran’s anticipated debut was put on hold after he was ruled out during the warm-up.
The Dragons have a 20-5 winning advantage in 25 encounters with the Vodafone Warriors with an 8-4 edge in 12 matches played in Auckland.
VODAFONE WARRIORS v ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS
FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton
8.00pm, Friday, May 19
1 ROGER TUIVASA-SHECK (c)
2 CHARNZE NICOLL-KLOKSTAD
3 BLAKE AYSHFORD
4 DAVID FUSITU’A
5 KEN MAUMALO
6 KIERAN FORAN
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 JAMES GAVET
9 ISSAC LUKE
10 JACOB LILLYMAN
11 BODENE THOMPSON
12 RYAN HOFFMAN
13 BUNTY AFOA
14 NATHANIEL ROACHE
15 SAM LISONE
16 LIGI SAO
17 BEN MATULINO
18 CHARLIE GUBB
20 MASON LINO
21 ALBERT VETE
22 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA
HEAD COACH | STEPHEN KEARNEY